It took me to leave rural northwest New Jersey, where I grew up, and to go to Philadelphia, where I went to college, to saddle up and actually develop a small knowledge base about Western-style horse riding.
I cleaned stalls and helped out Ike Johnstone at Belmont Stables, an historic West Fairmount Park building where Johnstone hosts the Bill Picket Riding Academy, through which he teachs anti-violence and communication to North Philadelphia kids. In exchange, Johnstone taught me some rudimentary riding skills.
I have been riding once a week or so for a few months now. I am no expert. I did take a long ride with him and some friends a few weeks ago through Fairmount Park. I didn’t see the car or notice the driver who slammed his door enough to startle my horse, sending him running through an opening. I managed to hang on, despite being bucked, enough to settle him and bring him under control.
Johnstone knows my love for country music, so he was playing into my romanticizing the West when he told me, “Chris, now you’re a cowboy.”
Far from it, but now that I know how to dress, saddle, take out and mildly control a (very) well-trained horse, I think I can put this item loosely in my completed pile.
I hope to develop and learn a great deal more still, though. Who doesn’t love horses, horse riding and the like? More than just or perhaps because of the relative simplicity of Western riding, versus English style, it is the only way I want to ride.